Thursday, January 25, 2024

NCLA Challenges ATF's Bump Stock Ban in Supreme Court, Defends Gun Rights

The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) has submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Garland v. Cargill, urging the court to rule that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) ban on bump stocks is in conflict with the federal definition of “machineguns.”

The ATF's regulatory ban, which was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit early last year, contradicted the agency's previous stance that firearms equipped with bump stocks do not qualify as illegal machine guns. NCLA is looking forward to presenting its case to the Supreme Court Justices in Garland v. Cargill on February 28, advocating on behalf of their client Michael Cargill and numerous other American citizens. The brief was primarily authored by former Texas Solicitor-General Jonathan Mitchell, who will also represent Mr. Cargill in the upcoming oral argument.

In 2018, the ATF redefined semi-automatic firearms with bump stocks as “machineguns,” which are prohibited under federal law. This rule compelled Mr. Cargill, a Texas gun shop owner and Army veteran, along with all other bump-stock owners in the country, to either destroy or surrender their lawfully acquired devices. In a significant decision in January 2023, the Fifth Circuit en banc ruled in Cargill v. Garland that any ban on bump stocks must be legislated by Congress. This decision aligns with judgments from the Sixth Circuit and the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, though it is at odds with rulings from the Tenth and D.C. Circuits.

NCLA argues that the Constitution designates Congress as the sole body to create new criminal laws. The 1986 statute banning machine guns did not include bump stocks, and as such, the ATF lacks the authority to extend criminal laws beyond what Congress has explicitly prohibited. The NCLA is confident that the Supreme Court will correctly interpret the statute and reject the ATF's rule, safeguarding American citizens from overreach by administrative agencies.

The NCLA, renowned for defending American civil liberties against administrative state violations, recently presented oral arguments in the Supreme Court in the case of Relentless Inc. v. Dept. of Commerce. This spring, the Court will hear arguments in NCLA's Murthy v. Missouri case concerning federal agency influence on social media censorship.

Richard Samp, Senior Litigation Counsel at NCLA, emphasized, “This is not just a matter of gun rights; it's about adhering to the rule of law. The decision on bump stock ownership should be made by Congress, not an administrative agency.”

Mark Chenoweth, President and Chief Legal Officer at NCLA, added, “The government's attempt to classify legal bump stocks and their owners as illegal is alarming. The Supreme Court needs to overturn this rule that misinterprets the 1986 machine gun ban and reverses the ATF's longstanding position on non-mechanical bump stocks. If federal agencies are allowed to create new criminal liabilities by reinterpreting old statutes, ordinary citizens face significant risk.”

For more details, visit the case page on NCLA's website.

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